Classic car enthusiasts take great time and effort preparing their vehicles for cruise-ins and shows. Taking care of the vehicle becomes a ritual. Many of these vehicles are as old as or older than their owners. Restoration is only part of the process. Getting them cleaned up and sparkling to a shine for a show or cruise-in is part of the labor of love.
Owners of classic cars take the cleaning up process very seriously. It is not unusual for someone to spend the day vacuuming, washing, drying, polishing and shining the vehicle. The next day, it will get another once-over upon arrival at their destination. As a rule, classic car owners are generally very fussy about what car cleaning products and polishes are used on their babies. They are even more fanatical about what type of cloth materials they use to clean the vehicles. The idea is to enhance the vehicle’s appearance, not compromise it with strings, scratches and fuzz.
Anything that comes in contact with the car is carefully inspected. If it does not look safe or clean, it is discarded and relegated to some other use. The most popular cleaning rags for older showpieces are cotton. These will not scratch or mar the surface. The serious car enthusiast will have a variety of cotton rags in different thicknesses, sizes and colors. Each is used on a different part of the vehicle. Different types of polishes are used for different finishes. The rags are not commingled. Chrome polish should not be used on tire rubber, any more than vinyl cleaner should be used on glass. Using the wrong types of substance on a surface or mixing up the cloths and commingling two types of polish causes streaks, sticky spots and oily messes. Sometimes the only way to get it out is to rewash the vehicle.
Once a vehicle has been washed, a soft cotton cloth is used to gently dry it. All water is removed. If necessary, the car is then waxed. A sponge is used to apply wax in small sections of the vehicle. A clean, dry microfiber cloth is used to buff it and create a protective coat that shines. The whole vehicle is done from hood to trunk and top to bottom.
The chrome is carefully dried with another clean, soft cloth. Special polish is used to discourage any pitting, webbing or deterioration. Every trace of cleaning and polishing materials must be removed. Not only does it look tacky to have bits of white crust embedded in cracks and crevices, points are taken off during judging. Even if cars are not judged, some individuals walking by will smugly point out in a helpful manner when someone has missed a spot.
On the day of the show, a similar mini-process begins as the cars arrive. Microfiber towels are especially popular for this step. A clean cotton rag or dust mop is used to remove any dust or dirt accumulated on the way over. Special shining solution and cleaner is applied to another rag for the body of the exterior. Tires and wheels are then cleaned and polished. Grass and dirt is removed from the tire treads. Chrome is polished with a special solution. The floor mats are removed and spruced up, then returned to their rightful positions. The interior is then carefully cleaned to a shine from the seats to the steering wheel. When the doors are finally shut, the handles are wiped free of fingerprints that will deteriorate the chrome. At last, the vehicle is ready for the show.